And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” Judges 16:17
I in them and you in me,that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:23
I remember Samson (of the Bible) holding “superhero” status in my mind as a child. Studying his tragic story now as an adult, I realize his character flaws throw a very different light on his super-human power. Isn’t that what intrigues us about God’s story? It is told through the lives of so many horribly flawed–even dysfunctional–people.
That is one of the ways of God: to use markedly flawed people to accomplish His will. It is intriguing about Samson and it is intriguing about the church. We are all flawed, and yet (like Samson) we, the church, are filled with God’s Spirit and collectively empowered to represent His spiritual authority in this world. Samson was a tragically flawed hero of God’s story, and Christ’s eklesia is likewise embarrassingly flawed. I’ve written about that here.
But also like Samson, the church has a peculiar source of its strength…a “lynch pin”, if you will, to all that empowerment God promises us. For Samson, it was his hair. But for the church, it is our relationships with one another.
We can talk about the power of prayer (if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven); we can talk about the church’s victory over the enemy (the gates of hell shall not prevail against it); we can talk about the church’s spiritual authority on this earth (whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven), but all of these realities are dependent upon the one thing for which Jesus prayed in John 17: our unity, i.e., our relationships with one another.
Relationships are the key to anything and everything meaningful the church has to offer this world. Without our relationships being what God expects them to be, there is no mission. Without a genuine, Spirit-led love for one another, the church–like Samson–becomes like any other man. We become a pretty good civic organization, doing some pretty good things. We become like the world.
But when we are truly involved in one another’s lives, intertwined together and leaning into each other, when we are pressing Biblical truths into one another and pushing each other to become the people God has called us to become, when we are giving responsibility for our own spiritual journey to our brothers and sisters in Christ, THEN we are becoming Christ’s eklesia, and all the promises of God go before us.
If you are one who looks at the church today and sees only its weakness…then know that it is because of weak relationships within it. If you rather tend to see the church today as being strong and influential, then know that all the influence comes from the Holy Spirit through a people who are bonded together in love. Either way, know that the key to your church’s strength is its relationships. The challenge for you as a church leader is this: how can you engage that reality and build stronger relationships starting today?
© Blake Coffee